H&R Block

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Like many entrepreneurs, Henry Bloch’s first business idea wasn’t the one that took off.

Henry and his brother, Richard Bloch, opened a small, bookkeeping office at Westport Road and Main Street in Kansas City. In 1955, they had decided to stop preparing tax returns, but an ad salesman for the Kansas City Star had a different idea.

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Kansas City, Mo. – Low-income working people tend to qualify for tax refunds, to get their taxes done early and to buy lucrative "refund anticipation loans". Until recently, H&R Block expanded aggressively to grab that business.

But Block's tax preparation work dove 5 percent this year. CEO Russ Smyth says the mounting popularity of tax preparation software cuts into their business, but that double digit unemployment among the working poor cuts deeper.